Latest browser stats: Chrome, IE9 up, Firefox suffers enthusiasm gap

Latest browser stats: Chrome, IE9 up, Firefox suffers enthusiasm gap

Summary: I just got the latest browser usage stats for this site. Has the initial enthusiasm for IE9 been able to sustain itself? Can Microsoft stop the steady erosion in usage of Internet Explorer? And what does the future hold for Firefox, Chrome, and Safari?

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Thanks to blog analytics, I've been able to track trends in browser usage among my readers over time, both here and at my personal site. I was especially eager to see the stats for the month of October. That's the first full month that Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 beta has been available to the general public. I saw plenty of enthusiasm when Microsoft unveiled the beta in mid-September, but has that enthusiasm been able to sustain itself? Can Microsoft stop the steady erosion in usage of Internet Explorer? And what does the future hold for Firefox, Chrome, and Safari?

I'm not particularly interested in picking winners and losers here; that's what racetracks are for. But knowing which browsers people are choosing to use and which ones are losing favor says a lot about what the web will look like in a few years. In a world where business is increasingly conducted online, using a variety of devices, those are important questions to ask.

I know that the audience at this site does not represent the Internet at large. By definition, the topics I cover attract a readership of IT professionals and tech-savvy enthusiasts. That means you, collectively, are early adopters, more likely to experiment with technology. But what I've seen consistently is that the public at large tends to follow the same trends as this group of early adopters, lagging in most cases by 9-18 months.

Now that this month is in the books, I've just checked the stats for this site. (Note: All stats in this post are from Ed Bott's Microsoft Report and not from zdnet.com at large; however, those stats are discussed in Larry Dignan's The Firefox vs. IE enthusiasm gap: What browser needs to rally the base more?) So what hints do this month's browser stats offer about the future of the web? I compared this month's stats with numbers going back for the past year, paying special attention to the latest versions of the leading browsers. Here are the month-by-month stats for this site for the past year.

Looking more carefully at the data, I come up with four conclusions:

Google Chrome is growing fast and shows no sign of slowing. In August 2008, Chrome didn't exist. In the past year, its share of usage at this site has grown by roughly 1% a month and currently stands at just over 19%. That is phenomenal. What's even more phenomenal is that more than half of those visitors were using unofficial beta and overnight releases. There is no question that Google's core constituency likes to live on the bleeding edge. And almost all of them are running Chrome on Windows.

Firefox users are abandoning it in droves. Overall, Firefox usage has dropped precipitously in the past two months. Back in 2007, it looked like a sure thing that Firefox usage would pass that of Internet Explorer within a matter of months. That didn't happen. Firefox usage crossed 40% briefly in August 2008, but it has been under that level ever since. The share of visitors to this site who used Firefox dropped in the past two months to roughly 33%, which is a return to levels I last saw in 2005 and 2006. It's a trend I first spotted back in March, and it hasn't slowed. The alarming statistic for anyone in Mozilla management is the complete lack of enthusiasm for Firefox 4. Only 1.06% of visitors to this site are using the Firefox 4 beta.

Internet Explorer 9 has sparked new interest. Usage of Internet Explorer among visitors to this site has dropped pretty steadily over the past two years. IE share dropped under 50% at this site in March 2009 and has been hovering around the 40% level most of the past six months. Back in mid-September, when Microsoft officially released its beta of Internet Explorer 9, I kept a close eye on what my readers were doing. In the three days after the release, more than 9% of the visitors to this site were using IE9. Much of that was just tire-kicking, of course. But after the initial glow wore off, a lot of those IE9 users stuck around. For the month of October, 3.96% of all visitors to this site were using IE9. That's more than IE6 (hallelujah!) and very close to IE7's usage. Despite the beta label and some compatibility issues, a large number of IE users were willing to stick with it.

Safari and Opera are destined to be niche players. Opera has not been able to gather any momentum, peaking at 2.5% earlier this year and dropping well under 2% for the past two months. Safari's usage has climbed steadily, thanks mostly to the iPad. In fact, if current trends hold, the share of traffic from iPads running Safari will surpass Opera in a matter of a month or two.

By my estimation, there's a huge enthusiasm gap among the top three browsers. The frenetic release schedule for Chrome appeals to its current crop of users, who are willing to blow right past the official release in search of the latest, fastest build. Firefox users, in stark contrast, are sticking with the current 3.6 release and ignoring Firefox 4. In a head-to-head matchup of IE9 and Firefox 4, Microsoft is ahead by a margin of more than 3:1.

We're not at the racetrack, so I won't be placing any bets. But if you ask me what I think browser stats will look like a year from today, I suspect that Microsoft and Google will be battling for the top two spots and Firefox will be in a desperate struggle to avoid being passed by Safari on a myriad of Apple devices.

If your prediction is different, leave it in the Talkback section.

Topics: Operating Systems, Apple, Browser, Microsoft

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Talkback

172 comments
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  • Mildly interesting, but, a very small sample. Also, Google makes it VERY

    easy to use the latest and greatest, and heavily encourage it, so, the numbers on that do not mean that much.

    The biggest thing you data shows is Microsoft's general failure to excite, and that most of their share is from bundling, and IE only web sites.
    DonnieBoy
    • RE: Latest browser stats: Chrome, IE9 up, Firefox suffers enthusiasm gap

      @DonnieBoy
      Internet Explorer 9 will be able to reverse the trend on Internet Explorer. It just hasn't been release yet and that's why there isn't a big effect yet.

      Oh and by the way, most sites said that IE9 is a very competitive and modern browser.

      Of cause it doesn't matter to a troll like you.
      illegaloperation
      • Well, Microsoft finally did give in and decided that they have no choice

        but to support HTML5, that much is true. I really doubt that sites are very excited to support yet another Microsoft web browser, and all the tricks.

        The ability of IE9 to reverse (or even stop) the general slide in all IE versions is yet to be seen. It might be that the best they will be able to do is slow the slide. But, with all of the alternate platforms that will be exploding on the market next year, that can not even run any version of IE, things are not very certain.

        Microsoft may be losing some of the monopoly lock and thus the bundling advantage.

        To early to make any claims one way or the other.
        DonnieBoy
      • RE: Latest browser stats: Chrome, IE9 up, Firefox suffers enthusiasm gap

        @day2die ... It doesn't matter to him, because he genuinely believes the nonsense he posts. I blame it on illiteracy since he obviously can't/won't/doesn't read the articles before he posts.
        GoodThings2Life
      • RE: Latest browser stats: Chrome, IE9 up, Firefox suffers enthusiasm gap

        @day2die : the problem's with IE9 is it's Windows Vista/7 dependency. So it can't gain more than 20 to 25% market share, considering the current Windows demographic. Also there's the problem of how good can Microsoft address GPU acceleration on a broad scope of hardware. All Vista Basic and 7 Starter editions assume no GPU or very basic one (the reason they don't show Aero). I think users on those systems (primarly NetBooks) will see no difference between IE8 and IE9, but will see lots of incompatibility issues.<br><br>Firefox and Chrome are on the other side of the curve. Originally KHTML (the forefather of Chrome and Safari) had serious problems with IE6 optimized sites. Then came Gecko (Mozilla) and solved many problems with hacks. WebKit learned that lesson and so Safari was borne. Chrome is just building on those shoulders. IE9, quite contrary, hadn't had that curve and it's hedging all it's bets on HTML5 (too risky, IMHO). Not even Mobile Safari (iPad, iPod touch, iPhone) is making such a gamble.<br><br>Let's see what pans out.
        cosuna
      • You get used to hime day2die.

        The most hilarious thing about DB is he'll post and post and post about how stupid MS in general is, ect. when there happens to be some positive Google news, or negative MS story.

        Now when it's a negative story about Google, you hear nothing but crickets in his corner.

        Should you see a positive MS story here, it's a 50-50 chance that he'll stay away, or show up with lots of BS "facts" or just go on how all Windows users and IT people are idiots, blah, blah, blah, depending on whether he took his Meds or not. ;)
        John Zern
      • RE: Latest browser stats: Chrome, IE9 up, Firefox suffers enthusiasm gap

        @cosuna - what rock are you living under?

        [i]"...the problem's with IE9 is it's Windows Vista/7 dependency. So it can't gain more than 20 to 25% market share, considering the current Windows demographic. "[/i]
        Let me see if I can get this straight - you're saying that IE9 won't get mass adoption because Win7/Vista are "only" installed on 25% of PC's? Consider that IE9 is unlikely to be released until the end of 2Q 2011, and that in the meantime companies and individuals will continue the exodus to Win7, and will continue to do so for several years to come, I don't think that Win7 adoption will be holding-back IE to any significant degree.

        [i]"Also there's the problem of how good can Microsoft address GPU acceleration on a broad scope of hardware. All Vista Basic and 7 Starter editions assume no GPU or very basic one (the reason they don't show Aero). "[/i]
        Sigh. You're clearly out of your depth here. Windows won't run on a PC without a GPU. Period. Aero requires a relatively hefty GPU in order to composite and blend all the layers and textures present in the Aero UI. However, even PC's with very low-end GPU's will still benefit enormously from IE9 using the GPU for many tasks that GPUs are far better suited for - e.g. compositing, CSS reduction, etc.

        [i]"I think users on those systems (primarly NetBooks) will see no difference between IE8 and IE9, but will see lots of incompatibility issues"[/i]
        Silly boy. Why not actually try it before blinding us with your opinions. Oh ... and when you do, be sure to download and install the Windows Performance Toolkit which will give you very detailed view into how much CPU, GPU, network, disk and memory are being consumed by IE, Chrome, FF and Opera on your chosen machines.

        To get ACTUAL FACTS about this subject go to www.microsoftpdc.com, hit "Guide", then select "sessions". Then view "Client and Devices" to find the "Inside Internet Explorer 9 Performance" session delivered by Jason Weber. You might just learn something.

        [i]"Firefox and Chrome are on the other side of the curve."[/i]
        No - FF and Chrome have taken a piece-meal approach and are jamming a small number of optimizations into their browsers to compete with Microsoft who've completely rebuilt IE9 to use all the power of your PC to render websites as quickly as possible.
        [i]"... WebKit learned that lesson and so Safari was borne. Chrome is just building on those shoulders."[/i]

        [i]"... IE9, quite contrary, hadn't had that curve and it's hedging all it's bets on HTML5 (too risky, IMHO). Not even Mobile Safari (iPad, iPod touch, iPhone) is making such a gamble."[/i]
        Dude. Seriously. HTML5 is the future of the web. Period. Microsoft, Apple, Google and Mozilla are all betting the farm on this fact.

        [i]"Let's see what pans out."
        Indeed. Let's.
        De-Void
      • RE: Latest browser stats: Chrome, IE9 up, Firefox suffers enthusiasm gap

        @De-Void

        "Aero requires a relatively hefty GPU in order to composite and blend all the layers and textures present in the Aero UI."

        Bah, I've run Aero on netbooks with no issues. For desktops, a $30 card will run Aero with no issues. Probably less if you buy in bulk. You can get video cards that'll run Aero dirt cheap.

        . . . and I'm sure that all motherboards for OEM systems are all gonna support a basic level of hardware accelerated graphics. It's almost impossible to find a Best Buy or other retailer selling systems without some form of hardware acceleration included.

        Even cell phones are coming with a type of hardware accelerated graphics on them.

        GPUs are everywhere - unless you're on an old legacy system, it's pretty hard to not have one.

        You need a GPU, yes, but in no way does it have to be "hefty," and they are common enough that the GPU argument really has no teeth. I've run Aero on all types of systems with no issues at all.

        "Dude. Seriously. HTML5 is the future of the web. Period. Microsoft, Apple, Google and Mozilla are all betting the farm on this fact."

        I agree with this.

        . . . and I'd like a fact check on that Safari mobile claim. Are we sure that they're not working on HTML 5 for Safari mobile?
        CobraA1
    • RE: Latest browser stats: Chrome, IE9 up, Firefox suffers enthusiasm gap

      @DonnieBoy

      What kind of bundling crap you're talking about?

      Ask Apple to bundle anything other than safari on macs, iphones, ipads.
      Or Google not to bundle chrome on androids.
      Do you think they'd do it?
      live.tiles
      • bungling

        @herry.k
        Those other platforms are quite easy to set-up a different default (preffered) web-browser. Windows still needs chunks of IE to help make sure it stays vulnerable. I noticed you missed the general case of linux which does not bundle it's "own brand" of web-browser.

        Regards from
        Tom :)
        Tom6
      • Yet another fool heard from..

        @Tom6
        It's blindingly simple to do it on Windows too. Just install Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and run it. Chances are, it will ask if you want browser X to be your default browser. Click OK and the deed is done. Should you need IE, it will also ask - uncheck the box that says "Check to see if IE is default" on start up and click cancel. "Problem" solved.

        IE's rendering engine is used by other parts of Windows. Sheesh. People whine about Windows being "bloated" and yet, when they do something that is designed to cut the potential for bloat, they get pilloried for doing so. Does it make Windows vulnerable? Not unless there's a specific exploit for rendering HTML.

        Linux - does anybody (besides the ~ 0.9% who uses it) care? Linux has no default anything. It doesn't even have a default desktop.
        Wolfie2K3
      • What's changed about IE....

        @herry.k

        Is they finally have decided to abandon one important activity: use their HTML features, then push their users to use them as much as possible, locking out other browsers.

        Go back to HTML4 and you'll find all sorts of goodies. Sites use them, other browsers don't work, Microsoft points out their sites work with the "proper" browser...
        Mihi Nomen Est
      • RE: Latest browser stats: Chrome, IE9 up, Firefox suffers enthusiasm gap

        [i]Go back to HTML4 and you'll find all sorts of goodies. Sites use them, other browsers don't work, Microsoft points out their sites work with the "proper" browser...[/i]

        @Mihi Nomen Est

        Toss in hacktive ActiveX and you got a real good case for other browser lock-out.
        ahh so
      • chrome??

        @herry.k uhm. do you have an android? have you ever used one? theres not chrome on android. get your facts straight
        tykazowsky
    • RE: Latest browser stats: Chrome, IE9 up, Firefox suffers enthusiasm gap

      @DonnieBoy

      IE9 is in beta, and isn't bundled.
      msalzberg
      • RE: Latest browser stats: Chrome, IE9 up, Firefox suffers enthusiasm gap

        @msalzberg shhh let him keep talkikng it's funny to read. It was also clearly stated the sample of data and the source, yet he had to repeat the obvious...kind of funny, typical but funny.
        ItsTheBottomLine
      • IE8 is so bad

        @msalzberg <br>IE9 is not bundled YET but it will be = So it would be important for people to get a foretaste of it. Also IE9 does a lot more of the basics with tabs that most other tabbed products had from very early on but somehow didn't make it into IE7 nor IE8.<br>Regards from<br>Tom :)
        Tom6
      • Yet.

        @msalzberg

        The most damning statement I've seen is the last time we were at my mom's place a few weeks ago. I gave her a tinyurl [1] to go to and she fired up Chrome. She & her husband are not ones to go with something new "just because".

        [1] Does anyone else just list the 5-6-7 character parm for tinyurl? It's always obvious in my notes and I don't take the time to write the url.
        Mihi Nomen Est
      • RE: Latest browser stats: Chrome, IE9 up, Firefox suffers enthusiasm gap

        [i]IE9 is in beta, and isn't bundled.[/i]

        @msalzberg

        Give it time. It will be. That way, M$ can continue to claim browser success.
        ahh so
    • RE: Latest browser stats: Chrome, IE9 up, Firefox suffers enthusiasm gap

      @DonnieBoy
      > and IE only web sites.
      That includes all the webshites made by MS Front Page that are totally compliant to their proprietary homebrew standards and a nightmare for the rest of us.
      kenift